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Robert Whitaker (author)

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Robert Whitaker

Robert Whitaker is an American journalist and author, writing primarily about medicine, science, and history.[1] He is the author of five books, three of which cover the history or practice of modern psychiatry. He has won numerous awards for science writing, and in 1998 he was part of a team writing for the Boston Globe that was shortlisted for the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for a series of articles questioning the ethics of psychiatric research in which unsuspecting patients were given drugs expected to heighten their psychosis.[2][3] He is the founder and publisher of Mad in America,[4] a webzine critical of the modern psychiatric establishment.


Whitaker was a medical writer at the Albany Times Union newspaper in Albany, New York from 1989 to 1994. In 1992, he was a Knight Science Journalism fellow at MIT.[5] Following that, he became director of publications at Harvard Medical School.[6] In 1994, he co-founded a publishing company, CenterWatch, that covered the pharmaceutical clinical trials industry. CenterWatch was acquired by Medical Economics, a division of The Thomson Corporation, in 1998.[7]

In 2002, USA Today published Whitaker's article "Mind drugs may hinder recovery" in its editorial/opinion section.[8] In 2004, Whitaker published a paper in the non-peer-reviewed journal Medical Hypotheses, titled "The case against antipsychotic drugs: a 50-year record of doing more harm than good".[9] In 2005, he published his paper Anatomy of an Epidemic: Psychiatric Drugs and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America in the peer-reviewed journal Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry.[10] In his book Anatomy of an Epidemic, published in 2010, Whitaker continued his work.[11][12][13]

Mad in America[edit]

He has written on and off for the Boston Globe and in 2001, he wrote his first book Mad in America about psychiatric research and medications, the domains of some of his earlier journalism.[14][15] He appeared in the film Take These Broken Wings: Recovery from Schizophrenia Without Medication released in 2008, a film detailing the pitfalls of administering medication for the illness.[16]

Anatomy of an Epidemic[edit]

An IRE 2010 book award winner for best investigative journalism, this book investigates why the number of mentally ill patients in America receiving SSI or SSDI disability checks keeps rising, despite the so-called "psychopharmacological revolution." Whitaker's main thesis is that psychopharmacological drugs work well to curb acute symptoms. However, patients receiving prolonged treatment courses often end up more disabled than they started.[17] Despite these results from several landmark studies in the 1970s, in the 1980s pharmaceutical companies such as Eli Lily together with the American Psychiatric Association began more aggressively pushing second generation anti-depressants and anti-psychotics on psychiatric patients. Many prominent academic psychiatrists worked as key opinion leaders for the pharmaceutical companies, and were compensated millions of dollars.[17]: 322 [18]

Psychiatry Under the Influence[edit]

In 2015 Whitaker co-authored another book about the psychiatric research and medications. The book is critical of the drug industry influence on the field of psychiatry.

Awards and honors[edit]

Articles that Whitaker co-wrote won the 1998 George Polk Award for Medical Writing[19] and the 1998 National Association of Science WritersScience in Society Journalism Award for best magazine article.[20]

A 1998 Boston Globe article series he co-wrote on psychiatric research was a finalist for the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.[21]

In April 2011, IRE announced that Anatomy of an Epidemic had won its award as the best investigative journalism book of 2010 stating, "this book provides an in-depth exploration of medical studies and science and intersperses compelling anecdotal examples. In the end, Whitaker punches holes in the conventional wisdom of treatment of mental illness with drugs."[22]


  • Mad In America: Bad Science, Bad Medicine, and The Enduring Mistreatment of the Mentally Ill, Perseus Publishing, December 24, 2001, ISBN 0-7382-0385-8
  • The Mapmaker's Wife: A True Tale of Love, Murder, and Survival in the Amazon, Basic Books, April 13, 2004, ISBN 0-7382-0808-6
  • On the Laps of Gods: The Red Summer of 1919 and the Struggle for Justice That Remade a Nation, Crown, June 10, 2008, ISBN 0-307-33982-3
  • Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America, Crown, April 13, 2010, ISBN 978-0-307-45241-2
  • Psychiatry Under the Influence: Institutional Corruption, Social Injury, and Prescriptions for Reform, with Lisa Cosgrove, Palgrave Macmillan, April 23, 2015, ISBN 978-1137506924


  1. ^ author's biography Archived 2008-06-02 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ "Finalist: Staff of The Boston Globe". www.pulitzer.org. Retrieved 2019-08-31.
  3. ^ "Robert Whitaker". Psychology Today. Retrieved 2019-08-31.
  4. ^ "Mad in America - Science, Psychiatry and Social Justice". Mad In America. October 2, 2016.
  5. ^ "Science Journalists Study at the Institute - The Tech". tech.mit.edu.
  6. ^ "narpa.org interview with author". Archived from the original on July 3, 2008.
  7. ^ news coverage of deal
  8. ^ "Mind drugs may hinder recovery". USA Today. March 3, 2002.
  9. ^ Whitaker, R. (2004). "The case against antipsychotic drugs: a 50-year record of doing more harm than good". Medical Hypotheses. 62 (1): 5–13. doi:10.1016/S0306-9877(03)00293-7. PMID 14728997.
  10. ^ Whitaker, Robert (Spring 2005). "Anatomy of an Epidemic: Psychiatric Drugs and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America" (PDF). Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry. 7 (1): 23–35. Retrieved 5 April 2012.
  11. ^ Fitzpatrick, Laura (May 3, 2010). "The Skimmer". Time. Archived from the original on April 25, 2010. Retrieved October 5, 2010.
  12. ^ Burch, Druin (April 7, 2010). "Does psychiatry make us mad?". New Scientist. Reed Business Information. Retrieved October 5, 2010.
  13. ^ Good, Alex (May 21, 2010). "Book review: Anatomy of an Epidemic". The Record. Metroland Media. Retrieved October 5, 2010.
  14. ^ "Street Spirit: Justice News&Homeless Blues". www.thestreetspirit.org.
  15. ^ A 50-Year Record of Doing More Harm Than Good Archived 2009-07-04 at the Wayback Machine Medical Hypotheses, 62 (2004):5-13
  16. ^ "Take These Broken Wings | Wild Truth". Iraresoul.com. Retrieved 2019-10-22.
  17. ^ a b Whitaker, Robert (2010). Anatomy of an Epidemic. Broadway Books. ISBN 978-0-307-45241-2.
  18. ^ Pereira, Joseph (2008-12-28). "Emory Professor Steps Down". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2016-02-05.
  19. ^ 1998 George Polk Award Winners at a Glance
  20. ^ "2011 Science in Society Journalism Award winners". www.nasw.org.
  21. ^ "1999 Pulitzer Prizes". www.pulitzer.org.
  22. ^ "IRE Awards 2010" (PDF). Investigative Reporters and Editors. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-09-15. Retrieved 2011-05-11.

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